Memory 2nd February
In the realm of divine providence, Abbot Ekvtime Kereselidze was born in the blessed year of 1865, in the village of Sadmeli, nestled within the sacred Racha region. Born to the devout and righteous Solomon and Marta Kereselidze, he was bestowed with the name Evstate at his holy baptism.
Upon completing his studies at the local parish school, the tender age of fifteen propelled young Evstate on a journey, seeking livelihood and purpose in distant lands. Guided by the benevolent hand of fellow pious youth, he laid the foundation of a theological society, akin to a sacred “book club,” in the hallowed city of Tbilisi. The noble objectives of this organization were twofold: to strengthen the unwavering Orthodox Faith among the Georgian people and to deepen their understanding of the ancient school of Georgian chant, thus spreading knowledge of this venerable musical tradition to the masses. In the 1890s, with the assistance of the righteous St. Ilia, the society acquired a printing press, which they utilized with zealous dedication, publishing theological texts and freely distributing them to the public for twenty-five blessed years.
As time passed, a divine calling stirred within Evstate’s soul, urging him to embrace the weighty yoke of monasticism—a path he had diligently prepared for from his earliest days. His spiritual father, the venerable St. Alexi (Shushania), wholeheartedly supported this holy decision. In the year 1912, blessed by the holy blessing of Bishop Giorgi (Aladashvili) of Imereti, Evstate embarked upon his monastic labor as a novice within the sacred walls of Gelati Monastery. On the sacred day of December 23, 1912, he was blessed with the holy tonsure, administered by the revered Abbot Antimos. Henceforth, he was bestowed with the name Ekvtime, in honor of the great and holy Saint Ekvtime of Mount Athos. In May of 1913, he was ordained as a hierodeacon, his steps guided by the grace of the heavens.
In the year 1917, during the harrowing period when the dark cloud of communism cast its ominous shadow upon Kutaisi, the seat of power was seized by godless forces. In their eyes, Fr. Ekvtime was deemed untrustworthy and promptly arrested. However, by the divine will of the Almighty, he was swiftly released, for the lack of evidence against him. In this era of godlessness, the clergy and monks of Gelati Monastery lived under constant anticipation of persecution and torment. Yet, the faithful Hieromonk Ekvtime, unyielding in his commitment, persevered in his sacred mission, tirelessly gathering hundreds of ancient Georgian hymns for future publication, transcribing their sacred melodies onto Western notation.
In the year 1924, the malevolent forces of communism, driven by their relentless desire to extinguish all traces of the sacred, razed the grand Cathedral of King Davit the Restorer in Kutaisi. During the same dark year, they ruthlessly took the lives of Metropolitan Nazar of Kutaisi-Gaenati and the clergy under his care. The hysteria reached its zenith. Sensing the imminent danger, Fr. Ekvtime resolved to relocate himself from Gelati Monastery, ensuring the safety of the precious ancient manuscripts entrusted to his care. Although the road between Kutaisi and Tbilisi was stained with the blood of countless martyrs, guided by divine providence, Fr. Ekvtime safely transported himself and the invaluable cartload of manuscripts to the blessed sanctuary of Mtskheta, near Tbilisi.
Within the sacred confines of Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, Fr. Ekvtime entrusted the manuscripts to the divine protection offered by the holy site. In due course, he was appointed as the dean of this blessed parish. Even in the treacherous year of 1925, when the Catholicos-Patriarch Ambrosi was imprisoned at Metekhi and threats against the Georgian clergy multiplied, Fr. Ekvtime remained steadfast in his sacred duty, diligently safeguarding the ancient manuscripts. Concurrently, he served as a spiritual father to the devoted nuns residing in the nearby Samtavro Convent, nurturing their souls with his profound wisdom.
In the year 1929, Fr. Ekvtime was transferred to the hallowed grounds of Zedazeni Monastery, situated outside the sacred city of Mtskheta. Accompanying him on this sacred journey were the precious music manuscripts, concealed within vessels of unyielding metal and interred within the earth’s embrace. Six years later, in the blessed month of November 1935, he selflessly handed over thirty-four volumes, comprising 5,532 chants and several theological manuscripts, to the revered State Museum of Georgia, ensuring their preservation for future generations.
As the dark shadow of World War II loomed over the Georgian monasteries, the conditions grew increasingly bleak. The abbot of Zedazeni Monastery, Archimandrite Mikael (Mandaria), met a tragic end while providing sustenance to his brethren in Saguramo, falling victim to the heartless bullets of the communist oppressors, who imposed their strict curfew without mercy. The blameless monk Parten (Aptsiauri) was unjustly accused, arrested, and subjected to the trials of persecution. Following the peaceful repose of the esteemed Elder Saba (Pulariani), Fr. Ekvtime stood alone, the solitary beacon of faith in Zedazeni’s sacred haven.
In the twilight of his life, Fr. Ekvtime found solace and care within the embrace of his spiritual children, the devoted nuns of Samtavro Convent. It was during the winter of 1944, when the noble nun Zoile (Dvalishvili) and her companions ventured forth to visit him at Zedazeni, discovering the beloved elder weakened and confined to his bed.
Before long, Fr. Ekvtime surrendered his earthly vessel, peacefully releasing his soul into the loving embrace of the Lord. The sacred grounds of Zedazeni Monastery opened their arms to receive his earthly remains, near the sanctified sanctuary of the church itself. A portion of his vast library was transferred to the protective walls of Samtavro, where several original manuscripts, bearing witness to his diligent transcriptions into the European-style notation, are lovingly preserved.
The ancient school of Georgian chant, a priceless jewel within the spiritual tapestry, remains vibrant and intact to this very day, owing its endurance primarily to the fearless labors of Abbot Ekvtime. St. Ekvtime (Kereselidze), akin to the holy Ekvtime of Mount Athos and the revered “Man of God” Ekvtime Taqaishvili, dedicated his life to enriching the mother Church. He poured forth his talents and energies, dedicating himself to the preservation of Georgia’s unparalleled spiritual heritage. A monk-ascetic and a scholar, he communed fervently with the heavens, with his theological treatises residing as eternal testaments within the sacred walls of Samtavro. From his youthful days, St. Ekvtime shone as a beacon of purity, humility, and patience, inspiring all who beheld his virtuous example.